Many junior players in the area are familiar with the SFTA’s Weber tournaments that are held every summer. This tournament is a chance for players to put everything they have learned during lessons into action by playing real matches! However, many may not know why it’s called the Weber Tournament. Who is the infamous Tom Weber who sponsors this beloved tournament?
Tom was fortunate enough to grow up with a tennis court on his property, adjacent to his house. He learned to play from his father, Robert and mother, Lucile. His older brother David also played and all were phenomenal players. His mother was a left-handed state champion and had an amazing forehand. Tom estimates she won over 20 trophies, mostly at the SD Open and SD Closed from around 1944-1954. She won numerous doubles events as well. He said David was a much better player than he was. David played tennis for the University of Iowa and currently lives in Omaha.
What really got Tom hooked on tennis was when he was 10 years old, Pancho Gonzales, Lew Hoad, Tony Trabert and Pancho Segura played at the Sioux Falls Coliseum. They were paid $10,000 to come play a match in Sioux Falls. Tom never forgot it and said it had a huge impact on his tennis career; Gonzales is his all-time favorite player.
Tom won his first tournament – the SD Closed in Brookings – when he was 10 years old! From age 10-15 he played in tournaments across the state and then eventually ventured across the border to Minnesota where Rochester had a big junior tournament. The competition was a lot tougher there.
He was the state high school singles champion for 3 years running – his sophomore, junior and senior years. He played for the largest high school in the state at the time – Washington High. Fred Fisher (who is now deceased) was his doubles partner. Fred ended up playing #4 for Notre Dame. Jeff Clark was his partner his junior and senior years. When asked who his coach was he mentioned Wally Diehl, who was the athletic director at the time and who he likes to call the “tennis czar.” They didn’t receive much instruction; didn’t train too much, didn’t work on keeping their weight down and of course diet wasn’t important at all. He said he picked up most of what he knows from his dad, from watching his mom’s groundstroke and from just hitting the ball. He and his brother were ranked #2 in doubles in the whole USTA Northwest Section (what the Northern section was called at the time).
After high school, Tom attended Augustana College where he majored in Math and Business. He was a two-time North Central Conference champion in singles (his sophomore and junior years). He didn’t go out for tennis his senior year as he decided to focus on academics. He felt that at the time, no one at Augustana cared about tennis as it wasn’t a revenue generating sport; football was what everyone cared about. After he graduated he worked for Dunn and Bradstreet briefly. He then moved to St. Paul in 1970 and worked at an insurance company, and also held a few other jobs up there. After about 10 years he moved back to Sioux Falls and managed 28 apartment complexes that he and his brother owned.
He gave up tennis around 1980 as he said it got to be too much running around when it was 90 degrees outside. “Running around on a concrete tennis court is like being fried,” he said. It took a toll on his knees and ankles.
At 74 years old, Tom enjoys a morning walk around Covell Lake, trading stocks and stays active in his church, Augustana Lutheran. Tom said the best part of tennis is fresh air, sunshine and exercise. It’s not about beating everyone 6-0, 6-0. He said as long as kids act civilized, they are welcome to play on his court. Although it appears most in the neighborhood would rather throw snowballs then play tennis.
Tom gives a lot of credit to Jamie Volin and Terry Nielsen for being such great resources for anything tennis related in our state.